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How RIAs are using interns

Jan 16, 2012 @ 1:08 pm (Updated 2:00 pm) EST

In recent weeks, since InvestmentNews announced the launch of our Next Generation initiative, I have had a number of conversations about internships and how different types of advisory firms and brokerages actually use interns.

Some common questions: Are they paid? What type of pay should an intern typically receive? What should an intern actually do?

Fortunately, we can provide some real clarity on almost all of these issues, thanks to research conducted last year by our IN Adviser Solutions team.

In the 2011 Adviser Compensation & Staffing Study, RIA firm owners provided some valuable data on internships - data that should be useful and interesting to both firms seeking to employ interns, as well as students looking for internship opportunities.

Overall, 43% of the firms that participated in the study said that they employ interns - and nearly all of these firms (88%) pay their interns for their work.

The average salary across these firms? $13.49 an hour, according to the study.

Getting into even more detail, the IN Adviser Solutions team came up with a list of 13 tasks that interns typically handle and asked firm owners to indicate which ones their interns perform most frequently. Here's the list:

What interns typically do

Click column headers to sort fields

Rank Task Portion of RIAs that ask interns to perform task
1 Clerical duties 75%
2 Data gathering 66%
3 Investment research 51%
4 Preparation for client meetings 48%
5 Reporting 30%
6 Modeling/scenario building 29%
7 Setup and/or maintain client accounts 27%
8 Plan development 18%
9 Other 18%
10 Schedule meetings 17%
11 Participate in client meetings 17%
12 Trading 6%
13 Asset transfers 5%
Source: The 2011 InvestmentNews/Moss Adams Adviser Compensation & Staffing Study

No surprise that clerical duties are at the top of the list. But data gathering, investment research and client prep are tasks that interns are actively performing for many RIAs; these are the types of tasks, in many cases, that can actually give an intern a feel for the profession and the firm. And on the other side, advisers can also meaningfully evaluate their interns for future full-time or part-time positions.

As one adviser recently told me: "We give our interns enough rope to hang themselves...It's the only way you know who you are dealing with and what you might be getting from a future new hire."

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